Problems of unity and design in Propertius II

Author:
Hendry, Michael Edward, Department of Classics, University of Virginia
Advisors:
Colker, Marvin L., Department of Classics, University of Virginia
Morford, Mark, Department of Classics, University of Virginia
Meyer, Elizabeth, Department of History, University of Virginia
Abstract:

The problem of the boundaries between the elegies of Propertius, particularly in Book II, is notorious. After a brief first chapter outlining the problem, Chapter II analyzes elegy 2.29 as a single poem, constructed on a series of antitheses: night-day, apart-together, and so on. The differences between the two halves are explained as an intentional juxtaposition of systematically opposed qualities.

Chapter III proposes combining elegies 2.6 and 2. 7 into a single poem, antithetical in a different way: the first part (2.6.1-40) portrays the poet as jealous husband, complaining of Cynthia's open door and lewd paintings, with Horatian reflections on decayed temples and the decline of religious observance. The second part (2.7.1-20) portrays the poet as Bohemian lover, refusing all patriotic and paternal duties. Each is humorously exaggerated, and the two are united by the couplet between (2.6.41-42), which sums up the paradox expressed in the two parts, and should not be transposed elsewhere.

Chapter IV deals with two elegies that are not diptychs but triptychs. Elegy 2.17-18 (the unification was tentatively proposed by G. Williams) is symmetrical, with the dramatic situation gradually revealed through the three parts. Elegy 2.26-27 (this unification goes back to Scaliger) is asymmetrical, and balances the nightmare of Cynthia dying without Propertius (2.26.1-20), the two lovers immortal together (2.26.29-58), and the lover dying without his beloved (2.27.1-16).

Chapter V tentatively proposes combining elegies 2.1 and 2.2 into a single poem. The argument is based on the similarities between 2.1.1-16 and 2.2.1- 16, the symmetrical structure of the combined whole, and the fact that 2.3a, with its anonymous interlocutor objecting to the appearance of a new book, makes a better second than third elegy.

Chapter VI briefly summarizes my conclusions: that Propertius sometimes constructs his elegies in antithetical ways, and that this is a likely source of wrong divisions, since editors assume that sudden changes of situation or tone imply new elegies; that the boundaries between the elegies in Book II are even more questionable than usually thought; and finally, that there are fewer, larger, and more complicated elegies in Book II than in any recent edition.

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Degree:
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Keywords:
Propertius, Sextus., Elegiae, Propertius, Sextus, Criticism and interpretation, Elegiac poetry, Latin, History and criticism, Latin poetry
Language:
English
Rights:
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date:
1990